While on the Oscar campaign trail for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino found time to woo Grammy voters at a special event for the soundtrack of his new film. The Q&A, moderated by music writer David Wild, took place recently at the Grammy Museum in downtown LA, and featured a special performance by Paul Revere and the Raiders lead vocalist Mark Lindsay, who sang three of his own classic songs featured in the movie.
Though he’s won Oscars for writing “Pulp Fiction” and “Django Unchained,” Tarantino has yet to win a Grammy, despite receiving nominations for both “Kill Bill” films, “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django” in the Best Visual Media Compilation category. But unfortunately, he lamented, “that category didn’t exist the year of ‘Pulp Fiction,'” which featured one of the most iconic soundtracks in recent movie history. “So every time I get nominated, there’s always some other zeitgeisty thing, and that is for sure gonna win.”
For this story of a TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) intersecting with Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and the Manson Family in 1969 Tinseltown, the director curated music from the era, with a specific focus on recreating the feeling of listening to KHJ Los Angeles radio. But there’s no KHJ museum, so he had to connect with archivists who could track down uninterrupted radio shows. “Between 1968 and 1969, they came up with about 14 hours,” all of which were found on cassette tapes recorded by average listeners with their own store-bought devices.
The tapes were “a soundscape” that reminded Tarantino of what it was like growing up in 1960s L.A. “It made me remember just how constant the radio was,” he explained. “Yes, it was in your car, but you were in your car a lot.” And when you got home, you’d turn it on there too. “Hearing those shows was a revelation,” not just for the music, but for the DJs and ads as well. “The more you listened to them, the more you realize this was cultivated sound in a big way.”
Tarantino was later joined onstage by Lindsay, whose songs “Good Thing,” “Hungry” and “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon” are featured in “Once Upon a Time.” As a child, Tarantino was a big fan of Paul Revere and the Raiders because “they were funny and cool.” He rediscovered them as an adult thanks to a chance visit to a used record store, where he picked up a 1960s compilation album that had “two songs I had never heard before,” one of which was Paul Revere’s “Oo Poo Pah Doo,” which reignited his love for the band.
There are also “all these real life connections to the story” of “Once Upon a Time” that made their music perfect for the soundtrack. Lindsay lived with music producer Terry Melcher in a house on Cielo Drive that was later owned by Tate and Roman Polanski — and was the site of the infamous Manson murders. “The reason that Charles Manson even knew who Terry Melcher was is because he was the boy wonder that did Paul Revere and the Raiders for Columbia Records. So with the idea of him being so interwoven into the fabric of that mythology … and of those murders,” it was obvious that his music had to be part of the film.
Lindsay closed out the evening with a live performance of the songs Tarantino selected, bringing the audience back to the groovy era of bellbottoms and free love. For the rocker, who actually met Manson at the Cielo Drive house a few times before the murders took place, watching the film was like seeing “my life back again.” When he heard the director wanted to license his music for the soundtrack, “it was such an honor.”
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